Unseriousness in Illinois

The Sun-Times editors respond, IMO correctly, to Gov. Quinn’s budget proposal:

As part of his $52.7 billion budget proposal, Quinn hopes to borrow an eye-popping $8.75 billion to pay off a backlog of bills expected to reach nearly $9 billion by June. This is money owed to schools, hospitals, universities, social service providers and corporations.

Paying off those debts should be a top priority, but massive borrowing isn’t the way to do it.

The answer is to radically reduce government costs, including taking on some of the state’s biggest-ticket items. Scaling back pensions for some current employees and reducing state costs for retiree health benefits must be on table. Controversial, we know, but Quinn failed even to mention them on Wednesday.

Borrowing of the magnitude proposed by Quinn sets Illinois on the wrong course. It takes the pressure off legislators to keep whacking away at an operating budget Illinois can’t afford, saddles the state with more debt — an estimated $3.5 billion in interest over 15 years — and almost guarantees the temporary income tax passed recently will become permanent to help pay the debt and sustain current levels of spending.

Echoing a comment about the federal budget that’s going around the blogosphere, no budget proposal in Illinois is serious unless it deals seriously with problems that public employee pensions and retired public employees’ healthcare benefits present to the state. We’ve already seen a substantial increase in the Illinois income tax which I seriously doubt anybody really believes will be temporary. Medicaid has been trimmed.

Just as at the federal level Illinois has been on a ten year spending spree and we have learned to our dismay that our income is just not going to be as high as we thought it might be. Commitments that were made based on assumptions about income will need to be altered. Any budget that fails to change those assumptions is not serious.

2 comments… add one
  • MrContract Link

    The so called “problem” of pension obligations is prominent only because they are the target of the anti-tax and anti-government hate groups that operate those blogs you mention. In reality, the problem of paying up on contractual pension fund contributions each year is significantly smaller than contractual obligations to pay for services rendered by businesses. So why are middle class public employees and their unions constantly under attack in the blogosphere, while businesses are spared any demands for reneging on their contracts?

  • Unless by “businesses” you mean hospitals and medical practices, I don’t know where you’re getting your information MrContract. Nearly half of Illinois’s budget is healthcare expenses. After that the next largest budget item is public employees pensions, cf. here.

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